Operation Christmas Child sees shoe boxes packed with gifts for Third World children (October 22, 2013)

Written by Jeffrey Ougler

Published by Sault Star on Tuesday, October 22, 2013

SAULT STE. MARIE - Marie Long quickly apologizes for the cluttered condition of the kitchen and dining room at the Walnut Street home she shares with her husband, Elgin.

She can be excused. Marie and Elgin have been busy for the last little while filling shoe boxes with everything from toothpaste to toys, gearing up to captain another Operation Christmas Child drive.

The couple, regional co-ordinators for the annual project that sends gifts to children in Third World countries, has been involved in the local effort for eight years; it’s their sixth year ruddering the campaign, celebrating 20 years of operation.

"It's a good cause for these kids,” Marie says.

“It's the fact that these children, who are in Third World countries, have nothing and, probably, this is the only gift they're ever going to get in their lifetime.”

Gifts include school supplies, hygienic products, clothing and toys.

"Just to let them know that somebody cares about them,” Marie said.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and development group. The campaign was launched in 1990 and, since then, some 104 million boxes have been sent out world-wide, reaching 150 countries, some of which are in very remote reaches of the globe.

In the past five years, the local chapter has increased its output from 1,875 to 4,373 boxes.

But Sault Ste. Marie could do more, the couple maintains. With a population of 75,000, shoe box output per person represents less than 6% of residents.

This year, the message is going to the malls.

Operation Christmas Child will have a five-week presence at both Station and Cambrian malls, which began Monday and wraps up Nov. 22. Representatives will have literature, pictures and, of course, boxes, should someone choose to take one to fill. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Things wrap up Nov. 22 at noon, after which boxes are shipped out.

Marie, retired from Sault Area Hospital, and Elgin, a former steelworker, have eight children between them, 19 grandchildren and nine-great grandchildren, all living in southern Ontario. With more time to spare these days, the couple savours the chance to lend a hand to others.

“Each box makes a child smile and it makes those doing up the boxes smile, as well,” said Marie, whose motto is “just one more box."

She and Elgin also volunteer at St. Vincent de Paul/ Vincent Place Food Bank.

“I am hoping that after the five weeks are up, we will see a higher percentage of boxes go out to these children,” Marie said.

“Have your children do a shoe box for one of these less fortunate children. They will have so much fun and learn how to share with these other children.”

For further information, Marie can be reached at 705-943-0529.